Beijing municipal government has issued this year’s first red alert for air pollution on Thursday – effective from Friday evening – after severe smog was forecast to blanket large areas of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, Henan and Shandong provinces in northern China until next Wednesday night. Beijing may ban Tianjin coal trucks to tackle air pollution From 8pm on Friday, the owners of private cars will be allowed to drive on Beijing’s road only on alternate days – depending on whether the number plate of their vehicles has an odd or even number – which will mean only half the usual number of cars will be in use. Environmental authorities warned the latest period of severe smog lasting six days would be the worst experienced this year and affect more than 20 cities. The red alert is the highest warning level out of the country’s four-tier system, which triggers the limits on the use of cars and the temporary shutdown or reduced production at factories. The alert comes as Beijing residents enjoyed clear blue skies on Thursday. Other cities and provinces have yet to issue an air pollution alert, although about a third of Beijing’s small particles of pollution causing smog have been found to have been transmitted from nearby regions. How China’s quick blue-sky fixes make pollution worse On Wednesday, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said that the air quality in 74 mainland cities had worsened in November, compared with the same month the year before. The average levels of PM2.5 – the finest pollutant particles, or particulate matter, smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter which can cause the greatest harm to public health – rose 7.4 per cent to 58 micrograms per cubic metre. Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei one of planet’s most polluted regions, but ‘lack of funding hampers progress on 2017 clean-up targets’ The average concentrations of PM2.5 rose to 102 micrograms per cubic metre in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area – a sharp increase of 8.5 per cent compared with the year earlier. The World Health Organisation recommends average 24-hour exposure to PM2.5 at 25 or below.